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Making the move to government IT jobs
Old 04-08-2009, 09:49 AM   #1
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Making the move to government IT jobs

In this day and age of job insecurity and 401Ks becoming 201Ks, I know a lot of people are strongly considering going after government jobs for the job security and the retirement benefits. Well, in the IT sector anyway, here's an interesting article in Computerworld about what it takes to make the move from the corporate rat race to the government IT world. It's mostly geared at management but it's still a worthwhile read for someone considering pursuit of the almighty pension and job security:

Is Uncle Sam your next boss? Making the move to government IT
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Old 04-08-2009, 10:23 AM   #2
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Sounds about right to me, especially the part about salaries working for Uncle Sam being only 60% of salaries on the outside. While federal employees' benefits are great, the salaries in science/engineering fields are often very low. I believe the discrepancy is even worse for IT. I think it is probably right about the stress level being low for government IT jobs, although there can be considerable stress in some government jobs that are less "behind the scenes" than most IT jobs.

In IT you have another complication in that sometimes IT is contracted out. Sometimes it is not, and anyway once you have the (non-contract) job past the probationary period you have the job.

If federal retirement benefits are the attraction, information on our retirement benefits is available here.

Federal jobs are listed here.
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Old 04-08-2009, 05:49 PM   #3
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I don't know if it will change with this administration, but since Reagan the trend has been to out source (and even offshore) IT (and other stuff).
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Old 04-08-2009, 06:21 PM   #4
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I was in Federal IT for the last 10 years of my career, several as an agency Deputy CIO and the last four as a CIO. I agree with some of what I read - the jobs pay somewhat (although not dramatically less) than private sector CIOs, and they are, for the most part, more secure. But the hours my peers and I put in were pretty darn long and the stress was high. I used to participate in The Information Management Forum, an outfit that brought together IT managers from a variety of companies, as well as a few state and federal agencies, to share experiences about major projects we were working on. The problems and pressures were much more common than different.
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Old 04-08-2009, 07:50 PM   #5
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The same is going on in the financial industry, as the private sector has hemmorhaged 10s of thousands of jobs in NYC alone. Funny thing is that all of a sudden federal agencies can now hire talent they could only dream of a few years ago. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for the tide to again flow toward the private sector, but at least for the next few years I would guess that the regulators will be a lot sharper than they used to be.
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Old 04-08-2009, 10:03 PM   #6
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I used to participate in The Information Management Forum, an outfit that brought together IT managers from a variety of companies, as well as a few state and federal agencies, to share experiences about major projects we were working on. The problems and pressures were much more common than different.
Could someone explain to me what is the differance between an IT person, and a software engineer (developer) at Microsoft or Google?

Ha
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Old 04-08-2009, 11:28 PM   #7
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Could someone explain to me what is the differance between an IT person, and a software engineer (developer) at Microsoft or Google?
IT = people whose jobs revolve around infrastructure roles such as database admin, network admin, system admin, lab manager, etc.

software engineer = people whose jobs revolve around product development roles such as developer, tester, program manager, build engineer, usability engineer, etc
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Old 04-09-2009, 07:11 AM   #8
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IT = people whose jobs revolve around infrastructure roles such as database admin, network admin, system admin, lab manager, etc.

software engineer = people whose jobs revolve around product development roles such as developer, tester, program manager, build engineer, usability engineer, etc
And Ha, a big IT shop (e.g. in a government agency, corporation, bank) will have both infrastructure groups and development groups with development staff designing, building, testing and deploying applications they build in-house.
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Old 04-09-2009, 07:30 AM   #9
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Right now, there are 33,647 openings for IT in the Fed, external announcements open to the public, nationwide and overseas.
Some require Guard membership.
USAJOBS -

That has got to be a record!
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Old 04-09-2009, 10:00 AM   #10
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Could someone explain to me what is the differance between an IT person, and a software engineer (developer) at Microsoft or Google?

Ha
About 5 years of college...
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Old 04-09-2009, 12:53 PM   #11
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IT = people whose jobs revolve around infrastructure roles such as database admin, network admin, system admin, lab manager, etc.

software engineer = people whose jobs revolve around product development roles such as developer, tester, program manager, build engineer, usability engineer, etc
This is what I thought originally, but I work for a big biotech company and we call the titles IT or IS(Information Systems) and my role is basically identical to a software developer but I am an "IS Programmer Analyst". But we are more of an "IT shop" whereas Microsoft is Software Development/Programming.

Basically I think one of the differences is IT/IS is working with and integrating systems, off the shelf solutions, etc. for use at the current company. (i.e. the focus is making it work at a specific company and dealing with specific company data/integration issues). Whereas a software developer/engineer is working on software that should be generic and apply to a wider range of data, systems and companies.
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Old 04-09-2009, 04:33 PM   #12
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Just a friendly warning/forewarning for anyone applying for a fed gov't job. The time b/w when you apply and actually start working may be several months to 2 years.
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Old 04-09-2009, 04:56 PM   #13
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Just a friendly warning/forewarning for anyone applying for a fed gov't job. The time b/w when you apply and actually start working may be several months to 2 years.
Yes, it does take a while! In my case: applied April 7th, started work November 9th. Security clearance took another six months. You have to be pretty serious to not get discouraged with waiting so long.
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Old 04-09-2009, 08:15 PM   #14
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Yes, the hiring process is truely hideous. Even as an active fed employee who applies for jobs I still don't hear back from the majority of my submittals. Our local HR office will send out letters, but outside of that I don't usually hear anything. I still show "pending" status of several jobs I applied for 2 years ago...

I'm working on year 13 of federal IT employment. Its a different beast for sure.
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Old 04-09-2009, 08:46 PM   #15
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May I ask why the long wait? Is this like an old fashioned marriage proposal where the groom's side (you the applicant) asks the bride's family who are supposed to feign indifference so that you'd offer more cattle?
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Old 04-10-2009, 09:33 AM   #16
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It's The Government. They don't have to be responsive.
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Old 04-10-2009, 09:58 AM   #17
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It's The Government. They don't have to be responsive.
"We don't care. We don't have to. We're the Phone Company."
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Old 04-10-2009, 08:24 PM   #18
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Gov't red tape... Job is typically advertised for a while. They need to wait until the open period is done. Collect all resumes. Then evaluate and rank them, then apply veterans preference/other special categories.

Then HRO sends the list of the top 1-5 or so candidates to the person trying to hire. Then they arrange interviews, decide who they want to hire. Or decide they all are not a good fit, and readvertise again.

Then there is a ton of paperwork and a job offer gets sent. Then the paperwork REALLY starts!

Or course you have to add in union grievances, readvertising of positions because the "chosen one" didn't make the top of the list, other gov't incompetence/errors, changes in bosses who want to be involved from the beginning, etc.

I guess I know a lot about the process! In the end, I think it comes down to who you know.
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Old 04-11-2009, 12:02 AM   #19
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When I started in IT (called DP then) it was with a (Canadian) government branch. I switched to the private sector after about 10 years, only because the G job was gone in my community and I'd have to move. Another company made me an offer I considered refusing but took. They were a quasi government operation and were privatized a couple of years later. DC pension, company stock options, all the rest. I'd still be toiling away if I was working for the government DB pension.

Crap shoot, YMMV.
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Old 04-11-2009, 11:15 AM   #20
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When I started in IT (called DP then) it was with a (Canadian) government branch.

Crap shoot, YMMV.
With all the outsourcing, consolidation, and ROI focus, IT is now back to being called DP again. Crap shoot indeed.
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